What is a trial?
A trial is where the judge makes a binding decision after hearing from both parties. All Small Claims Court cases go to trial if they have not already been resolved earlier in the court process.
How long does a trial take?
Most small claims trials take fewer than two hours.
What happens at a trial?
Both parties tell their versions of events to the judge. The judge may ask you questions, permit witnesses and allow you or your lawyer to ask questions of the other parties and their witnesses. The other party may also ask questions of you and your witnesses. All people who give evidence will be asked to take an oath or affirm that they will tell the truth.
How should I prepare for a trial?
If you prepared for your trial conference, you will be ready for your trial. Prepare your evidence and documents - bring the original and at least two copies of each document to court. If you are a witness in your case, prepare to tell your story as simply as possible and in the order that the events happened. Include issues that were agreed upon in the settlement conference. You can use a Trial Preparation Checklist to help you get ready for your trial. In addition, read the Ministry of Attorney General’s procedural guide called Getting Ready for Court.
How do I prepare my witnesses?
Witnesses must attend in person to give their evidence in court. Remember that your witnesses must have personal knowledge of the facts you want them to tell the court. Prepare your witnesses by going over the questions you wish to ask them. Each witness will give his or her evidence and then may be cross-examined by the other party, so think of questions that the other party may ask your witnesses. Be sure not to coach your witness regarding his or her answers – this is not legal. It is OK to make them aware of questions that may be answered – but it is not OK to tell them how to answer.
If you are calling an expert witness to give an opinion you must let the other party know at least 30 days in advance and serve him or her with a copy of the opinion evidence you wish to call.
If your witness is reluctant to attend you can summon him or her at least seven days before the court date by serving them with a Summons to a Witness (Form 8). This means that the court requires his or her attendance and he or she has to come and bring with them any records or other things required by the summons. The party summoning the witness must offer the witness reasonable travelling expenses. A judge may issue a warrant for the arrest of a witness who does not attend court, if the judge is satisfied that the summons was served, travelling expenses were offered, and the justice requires the presence of the witness.
If your claim involves property damage, you can use written repair estimates instead of a witness but there are special rules to follow which you can find in the guide Getting Ready for Court.
If you need an interpreter you must provide your own accredited interpreter. This can be arranged through the Society of Translators and Interpreters. You must pay all interpreting fees yourself (with the exception of a sign language interpreter) unless the court rules in your favour and directs that your court costs be paid by the other party. However, even if the court does order this, you will still need to pay all interpreting fees in advance. You would be reimbursed for this expense later. If you need more information about interpreters, visit the Court Services Branch’s website.
What happens if I need to change the date of the trial?
If you cannot make the date set for your trial, you can apply to a judge for a new date under Rule 16(7) by filing an Application to a Judge (Form 17).
What happens if one of the parties does not attend the trial?
If you are the claimant, your claim may be dismissed. If you are the defendant, the judge may allow the claim and a payment order may be made against you.
The judge must complete a Verification of Default (Form 31) and give it to the parties attending in order to obtain a dismissal or default judgment. If neither party attends, the registrar will make an order dismissing each disputed claim.
For more information contact your local court registry.